Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Summertime Blues

Ever have those mornings where you hit the snooze on the alarm clock too many times, finally lurch out of bed, and don't have the time nor the inclination to care what you wear for the day? And then, when you finally get to work and actually see what outfit you've chosen, you want to slink under your desk and hide all day long?

That was me yesterday. As a consequence of my bad fashion choice, my self-esteem didn't rank very high all day long, and by the time I got home, I just wanted to throw the offending outfit into the deepest, darkest recesses of my closet.

This has been happening too much lately. I can only attribute it to one thing: it's summer.

Not only does summer make me feel frumpy on the outside, but on the inside, as well. My motivation isn't where it should be, I don't sleep well at night (even with the fan constantly blowing in my face), and the season's flesh-baring fashions only shoot my self-esteem further into the water. Give me jeans and a comfy sweater any day! Even my desire to buy lots of cute sundresses has somewhat fallen by the wayside due to budget constraints and, well, the fact that some of us need a bit of support under those sundresses to make them look good. And those supporting items only contribute to making me hotter!
Point blank, summer makes me feel lethargic and grouchy and grumpy.

I don't see an easy solution to this as I cannot flee to some far-off northern country for the next two months, nor can I barricade myself in my apartment and exist on chocolate and Diet Pepsi alone (though I may lose some weight that way...).

So I've determined to find the small bits and pieces of this season that I actually enjoy and focus on them. Evening bike rides. Longer days. Thunderstorms. Picnics. Fresh fruit. Gorgeous flowers. Family get-togethers (4th of July!). Ice cream. Sitting on the deck in the evenings and soaking up the sounds of cicadas.

There. I feel better already.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Crappy First Draft

There is a great deal of truth to the old adage of allowing yourself to write a crappy first draft. Anne Lamont has touted this method for years. Other, similar advice urges you to just get it down and go back and fix it later. Steven Pressfield has an amazing blog post called "Cover the Canvas" where he espouses this very thing.

Here's an excerpt from that post:

"Here’s my mantra for first drafts. Cover the canvas.

What that means is get something done from A to Z, no matter how imperfect. A first draft doesn’t have to be great; it doesn’t have to be pretty. It can have gaping holes; it can leave every “t” uncrossed and every “i” undotted. Momentum is everything in a first draft. Get it done. Cover the canvas."

Yesterday I struggled to get through a chapter of my novel. I didn't have all the specifics worked out yet, and it kept me from getting any writing done. In essence, I was strangling my momentum. But I realized that if I just wrote the words, "Figure this out later", I could keep writing. And write I did. I finished the chapter, one I'd been working on for too long, and was finally able to move the story forward.

It's something I've had to learn the hard way. There have been too many times when I've let myself stagnate on a particular scene because I don't have it all figured out yet. That just creates a snowball effect. When I get stuck on a scene, I stray from the manuscript, which leads to procrastination, which leads to not writing.

I have a feeling I will have to remind myself of this very advice in the future. Maybe I need to put a sticky note on my laptop, one that simply says, "Cover the canvas." or maybe, "Keep moving." Either one should do the trick.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Sometimes, God has a way of giving me words that I need to hear exactly when I need to hear them. Such was the case last night.

My ultimate career goal is to be a full-time novelist. If this means that I have a part-time job on the side to help me pay my bills, then so be it. I'm ok with that. But putting 8 hours in every day at a job I'm not in love with is getting to be really really hard.

Yet, at this point in my life, it's necessary. But it still doesn't stop frustration from creeping in and overwhelming me. That frustration stems from not being able to be a full-time novelist right now. It's a dream I've been chasing for years and years, and I'm not there yet. That "yet" gets to me sometimes, just like it did last night, and I feel profoundly unhappy.

Thankfully, I read a parable in the book of Matthew that made things much more bearable. Called the Parable of the Talents, part of it revolves around using your talents, investing in them, and doing it not for only your own happiness, but for the happiness of others. I found a wonderful blog post that explores this parable in greater depth (though this is but one view - I have found others that look at it differently), and a few paragraphs really spoke to me:

"I know from experience that if I undertake some action to create increase only for myself, there’s very little energy to it, and it doesn’t usually increase my happiness. But if I focus on creating increase for others (such as by helping people grow), then I feel great joy in doing that, and it ultimately creates increase for me too.

But there’s more to it than that. Happiness is a quality that I inject into my work, not something I derive from it. When I work only for myself, I’m looking for happiness outside myself. Trying to achieve happiness that way doesn’t work. But when I work for others’ benefit and turn off WIIFM for a while (What’s In It For Me?), I tap into the deep wells of happiness that are already inside me. Instead of trying to achieve happiness, I happily achieve. Happiness flows outward from me and into the work I do, so I experience it as an outflow, not an inflow."

Am I "happily achieving" in my day job as well as in my writing? Hmm. That's a good question, and one I need to explore more in-depth. But this parable also makes me believe that it is possible to find greater contentment in life by simply looking at the day job through different eyes. The key is to keep that mindset.

What are your thoughts?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Easing Back In

I have to admit, the blogging break has been very nice. Blogging burn-out is no fun, especially when you really enjoyed blogging to begin with, and it then turned into a chore.

But I'm starting to miss the blog world a bit, so thought I'd ease my way back in.

On Writing...
I'm almost to the half-way point of my novel, and I'm pretty darn excited with where it's at. I've been able to get my hands on some terrific research material - some is coming from the federal archives in D.C. - and it's satisfying not only the writer in me, but the historian, as well.

On the Weather...
It rained nearly all day yesterday. Thunder and lightning galore! While I love thunderstorms, the rain we've been getting has caused flash flooding in areas. Makes me grateful to live on the 3rd floor! Last night, though, we went on a bike ride during a time when the skies has lightened somewhat. Unfortunately, ten minutes into the ride, it started to rain. And by the time we got home, we were soaked. My daughter said, "Mom, you've got to put this in your journal!" So of course I did. *grin*

On Summer in General...
I'm not a summer person, as most of you know. We've had some hot temperatures already, even though today marks the "official" start of summer. To counter this, I've purchased some darling dresses that will help me at least look cooler, if not perhaps feel cooler. I've tried to make the most of this season, however, by hanging up some cute deck lights and taking lots of bike rides and walks when it cools off at night. I'm sure once summer gets into full swing, however, that these will be far and few in between. That's when I'll rely on the ol' treadmill for exercise.

On Reading...
If you have not read Stieg Larsson's The Millennium Trilogy, I highly recommend it. I picked up the third book in the series, The Girl who Kicked the Hornets Nest, and devoured it in a few days. But ever since this concentrated focus on one novel, I've been strangely unwilling to devote my attention to fiction. I did get a new WW2-era novel, The Postmistress, at the library the other day, but haven't been in the mood to read much.

Now I'm off to check out what you've been up to!

New Digs

I've got a new home on the web - stop by if you get a chance! www.melissamarsh.net